On the evening of Saturday July 1st Todd and I met up with 4wheelbob and Gina at Quaking Aspen Campground in Sequoia National Forest. Bob graciously offered to be the guest speaker at my campfire program that night and he did a great job! The audience was friendly and they asked Bob lots of good questions. I think they all really enjoyed the program as did I. Bob has a great sense of humor and he puts everyone at ease as he tells great stories. After the program we sat by the fire for a little while then headed off to bed. Except for some overexcited kids in campsite 1 (and some overexcited adults in another campsite) we had a pretty peaceful night. I slept very well as I hadn't had a day off in 2 weeks!
In the morning I was the last one up (I love sleeping in!) and we went over to the Ponderosa Lodge for breakfast. Afterwards Gina and Todd played a game of Pac-man while Bob and I sat out on the deck and watched a friendly and very cute chipmunk run around. We then went back to the campground and I went for a walk along the edge of the meadow to photograph some wildflowers then I walked back and helped pack up. Gina and Bob headed back home, unfortunately, because Bob had to work on Monday Todd and I headed south towards the Portuguese Pass area.
Two years ago I drove to Frog Meadow and I had wanted to go back there for quite some time and stay the night. On the way, along the Sugarloaf Road, we stopped at French Joe Meadow and a spot on the map that is marked "Indian Rock." I got out and explored a little and found that there are "Indian Bathtubs" in several granite rocks. The origin and use of these rock basins is still up for debate. You can read more about them here http://www.indiana.edu/%7Ee472/cdf/prearch/sandelin
If you ever have the inkling to explore a great backcountry road, and one that is paved by the way, the Sugarloaf Road (Forest Service Road 23S16) is a great one to try! It winds its way from near Johnsondale, up and over Portuguese Pass, then all the way back down again to the hamlet of Posey, CA. The views along the road are incredible; you can see all the way to Mt. Whitney (one of the only roads in the western Sierra that you can see Whitney from!) There are some great camping areas and trails to explore out that way as well.
We made our way back into Frog Meadow and found a great campsite on the meadow's edge. We ate lunch, set up the tent, and I set off to explore the meadow. There I found tons of wildflowers in the green, GREEN meadow. I also found the reason why the meadow got its name...
A little while later Todd came down to join me as I sat along the small stream flowing through the meadow soaking my feet. It was then that we heard a huge boom! Somebody in the campground was setting off a firework or something! We heard 3 more booms, each one louder than the next. We saw the people throwing a bucket of some sort in the air then when it dropped a huge boom resulted. Fireworks are of course not allowed in the Forest and any kind of explosive device is not allowed in a campground so I decided that we should try to contact Porterville Dispatch. Todd has a satellite phone for work and so I used it to report the illegal activity. A little while later a patrol unit showed up and they talked to the people. They claimed it was a potato launcher. Hmmmmmm... Anyway, we heard no more booms that day or night, thank goodness.
On Sunday we got up and enjoyed the cool morning air and the multitudes of little birdies singing. We ate oatmeal for breakfast then packed up and drove up to Tobias Lookout, herding some cows along the way. This lookout is at 8284 feet and is manned, or womanned I should say Mary Ann has been staffing the lookout for many summers now and it is always a pleasure to visit with her and her faithful companion Tennessee. It was a clear morning and the views were far-reaching...
I asked Mary Ann about the Baker Point Lookout and the trail going there. She said it wasn't too difficult and the view was great! So Todd and I drove towards Baker Point and found the trailhead. Todd wasn't feeling very well so I decided to do the hike by myself and I could keep in touch with Todd using two-way radios. Another small group of people arrived at the trailhead and they looked like they were preparing to hike so I was glad I wouldn't be alone out there on the trail. This country is rough and there are lots of hazards like rattlesnakes and mountain lions. Funny thing it turns out I knew one of the guys in the group! His name is Bill and he works in the Sequoia National Forest Supervisor's Office in Porterville! He and I had never met in person but had talked on the phone many times.
The hike to the Baker Point Lookout is flat and easy at first but soon becomes more difficult. It is about 1.5 miles out and I'd leave at least 2-3 hours for the hike. Much of it is rocky and narrow and steep and there are currently two large trees down across the trail that are tough to crawl under or over. But the views along the trail are outstanding! Click here for a panoramic view looking east-north-west from the trail! There are also many interesting and unique plants that grow here and thus the area has been deemed a Sequoia National Forest Botanical Area.
The Baker Point Lookout has not been manned since the 1980's. Mary Ann thinks they ought to man it again because it has a very unique and helpful view up and down the Kern River Canyon. It would take a little bit of work to restore the lookout but it seems like the infrastructure is still intact.
Once we reached the lookout we had fun poking around and chatting and eating! Bill and his wife and two friends brought 4 kinds of cheese, crackers, pretzels, wine, and beer out there to enjoy. These are folks that take their hiking seriously They offered me some cheese and pretzels and I enjoyed their company. Soon enough, though, I figured I ought to hike back to Todd. So I thanked and left the group and hiked out on my own.
I made good time on the hike out and it was about 2:30 when I got back to the trailhead. Todd and I then drove to Panorama Campground and ate lunch. Then we headed west and downhill to Sugarloaf and Posey, CA then north towards home.
More photos here http://www.tarol.com/2meadows_mountains.html
The mountains are calling and I must go. ~ John Muir ~ www.tarol.com